Thursday, May 14, 2015

Lest we forget: Lt Col Eric Simeon's eighth death anniversary

NB: I rarely place personal themes on this blog, but the exception has been a few posts memorialising my dear parents. This is not only for my own feelings, but also for all the many hundreds of people who knew them - fellow officers, students, parents of students, and friends. My father had two whole careers - as an Army officer in the Corps of Signals, and as principal of four schools - the Sainik School Kunjpura (Karnal); La Martiniere School for Boys (Calcutta), The Doon School Dehra Dun (where he was the first Indian Headmaster), and Cathedral and John Connon School, Bombay. 

Today is his eighth death anniversary. The pain has ebbed, and I no longer grudge him his well-deserved rest. Yet the memory of his last days in the Army hospital in Delhi is still stark, as are some of his last words. To remember him, I post the letter I sent out eight years ago to people who knew and loved him. With love to all, and with deepest remembrance to my father.. DS

Dear friends,
May 15, 2008, will be my father, Lt Col E J Simeon's first death anniversary. As the date has approached, I have re-lived those last weeks of his long and eventful life, full of principled endeavour and high values, laughter and theatrics, combined with deep personal modesty. 

I remember the visits paid him in the Army's RR Hospital by scores of friends and students, and his being touched by this. I also remember his telling me, 2 days before he died, and as I held his hand, "I'm not afraid, I know exactly what's going on. Thank you, now go home and get some rest."

I must tell you that despite his broken heart after my beloved mother's death in December 2004, he was courageous and stoic in his last days, and taught me much about life. He remained a teacher till the end. I watched him take his last breath, at 12.30 pm, May 15, 2007. 

After my father passed away, I often wondered what it was that endeared him to his students, who gave him so much affection and respect. I'd like to sum it up in the simple reflection that he loved to tell stories to children, to make them smile and wonder at the immense richness of the world.

There is much to say, but I can't put words to it. A strong sense of loss remains with me. Some of you will remember the atmosphere that prevailed at the Army Cremation Ground in Delhi Cantonement on May 16, 2007, when those who loved him, including senior officers who were once his students, saluted the humble Lt Colonel for the last time.

When I was a child, he once took me to see the film "Goodbye Mr Chips", about a much-loved schoolmaster. The old man doffed his well-worn hat, and walked away.. what a sense of nostalgia. Goodbye, dearest father. Enjoy your well-deserved rest !

I thank all of you for your love and support in what was the hardest task of my life, and ask you once more to remember him. I attach the poem I read out at his memorial on May 29 last year (sent to me by an old student) and photos of him taken in 2005.

Please circulate this letter to the many whom I cannot reach.

with love to all of you

Farewell to Thee!
Farewell to Thee! But not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of Thee;
Within my heart they still shall dwell
And they shall cheer and comfort me.

Life seems more sweet that Thou didst live
And men more true that Thou wert one;
Nothing is lost that Thou didst give,
Nothing destroyed that Thou hast done.

(Anne Bronte)